It Stains the Sands Red

Director: Colin Minihan

Writer: Colin Minihan, Stuart Ortiz

Cast: Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir

Cert: (18 tbc)

Running time: 92mins

Year: 2016

What’s the story: A woman is forced to flee across the Nevada desert when she attracts the unwanted attention of a doggedly persistent zombie.

What’s the verdict: The zombie apocalypse has happened and the undead won. They’ve conquered movies, TV, books, comics, games, charity events, and the happiest day of your life.

And devoured any scrap of originality left on the picked clean carcass of George A. Romero’s classic, The Night of the Living Dead.

Meaning Colin Minihan and Stuart Ortiz’s It Stains the Sands Red is cause for celebration. Seemingly having ditched their previous nom de cinema, The Vicious Brothers, the duo behind Grave Encounters 1&2 have made maybe the most inventive zombie flick since Shaun of the Dead.

The premise is back-of-a-postcard simple. Coked-addled pole dancer Molly (Allen) flees Las Vegas with boyfriend Nick (Mondesir) after the dead rise. When they hit car trouble on the open plains of the Nevada desert, their luck turns from bad to deadly upon attracting the attention of a suited zombie (Riedinger). Nick is attacked and Molly runs into the sunbaked landscape, pursued by her new, hungry admirer.

So far, so standard. What elevates It Stains the Sands Red is Minihan and Ortiz’s use of zombie as allegory, learning from the master Romero. Riedinger’s walker is an embodiment of Molly’s guilty past, information about which is revealed via flashbacks and blurted confessions. She can run from it, sometimes she’ll be ahead of it, but it always catches up with her.

Even when she boasts that with cocaine she can walk all night.

The dapperly attired undead is also every creep who won’t take a hint, and christened “Smalls” by Molly in reference to his presumably shrivelled manhood.

Molly, decked out in impractical heels and an outfit more suited to the stripper’s pole, may start out a “train wreck”, but as terror turns to annoyance and beyond, Allen delivers a nuanced performance of vulnerability and resilience.

Riedinger too deserves plaudits for his layered turn, Smalls arguably the most winning zombie since Day of the Dead’s Bub. Together Molly and Smalls become a compelling horror movie odd couple.

And, as with all good stories of the undead, it’s not only the ambulant deceased about which Molly must worry.

To reveal anymore would spoil the surprises. Think World War Z was good because it had a ghoulish outbreak aboard a jumbo jet? This does something you have never seen in a zombie movie. Guaranteed.

Director Minihan opens with an impressive aerial shot of the Las Vegas strip falling to the outbreak. Elsewhere, his small budget conjures up a vivid sandstorm and a well-executed gore set-piece.

But, his attention is largely fixed on Molly and her dogged travel partner. Using his widescreen ratio to capture the punishing heat of the vast Nevada terrain, the director convincingly depicts it as the most dangerous place on earth. Even with only one flesh eater on your tail.

When you think there’s no more room for imagination in zombie cinema, a gem of a fright film comes along and It Stains the Sands Red.

Rob Daniel
Twitter: rob_a_Daniel
iTunes Podcast: The Electric Shadows Podcast

It Stains the Sands Red is coming to streaming horror service Shudder in early 2018

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